Daniel Pauly

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Daniel Pauly
Daniel Pauly Pauly Symposium.jpg
Daniel Pauly
Born (1946-05-02) May 2, 1946 (age 77)
Alma materUniversity of Kiel
Known forSea Around Us Project
Shifting baselines
Fishing down marine food webs
Sea Around Us Project
Ecopath with Ecosim
AwardsInternational Cosmos Prize (2005)
Volvo Environment Prize (2006)
Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology (2008)
Albert Ier Grand Medal in Science (2016)
Ocean Award (2017)
Scientific career
FieldsMarine biologist, fisheries scientist
InstitutionsInternational Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management
UBC Fisheries Centre
University of British Columbia
Doctoral advisorGotthilf Hempel

Daniel Pauly is a French-born marine biologist, well known for his work in studying human impacts on global fisheries and in 2020 was the most cited fisheries scientist in the world.[1] He is a professor and the project leader of the Sea Around Us Project at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. He also served as Director of the UBC Fisheries Centre from November 2003 to October 2008.

In February 2023 Pauly was the co-recipient of the 2023 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, with Ussif Rashid Sumaila.[2] The award has been described as the ‘Nobel Prize for the Environment.’[3]


Pauly was born in Paris, France. He grew up, however, in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland in what was called a strange "Dickensian" childhood where he was forced to stay as a live-in servant to a new family. For the first 16 years of his life, Pauly lived an inward life as he was mixed race in an all-white town, finding solace in books/reading and model construction. At 16 he ran away and put himself through high school in Wuppertal, Germany after one year working with disabled people for a local church-run institution. His work led to a scholarship to the University of Kiel.

It was at the University of Kiel where Pauly decided on fisheries biology. He said he wanted to work in the tropics because he felt that he would "fit in" better there. He also wanted to devote his life to an applied job where he could help people.

He did a master's degree at Kiel University under Gotthilf Hempel on "The ecology and fishery of a small West African lagoon".[4] Pauly then spent two years conducting trawling surveys as a member of a German-Indonesian project aiming at introducing this relatively new gear.[5] He began to write on tropical fisheries management; later his emphasis switched to global fisheries trends and conservation.

Pauly completed his Ph.D. at Kiel University in Germany, again under Hempel, in which he established strong relationships between the surface area of gills and the growth of fishes and aquatic (gill-breathing) invertebrates.[6] His dissertation laid the foundation for his Gill-Oxygen Limitation Theory, which he would later develop in more detail.

Daniel Pauly in conversation with Silver Donald Cameron about his work.

After his Ph.D., Pauly worked for 15 years at the International Center for Living and Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), in Manila, Philippines. Early in his career at ICLARM, Pauly worked in the tropics and developed new methods for estimating fish populations. Pauly helped to design, implement, and perfect methods using length-frequency data instead of the age of fish to estimate parameters of fisheries statistics such as growth and mortality.

Later, he helped develop two major projects: ELEFAN and FishBase. ELEFAN (ELectronic Length Frequency ANalysis) made it possible to use length-frequency data to estimate the growth and mortality of fishes. FishBase is an online encyclopedia of fish and fisheries information comprising information on more than 30,000 different species. Both projects received worldwide attention and through multiple upgrades and additions, are still prominent in fisheries biology.

Through the 1990s, Pauly’s work centered on the effects of overfishing. The author of several books and more than 500 scientific papers, Pauly is a prolific writer and communicator. He developed the concept of shifting baselines in 1995 and authored the seminal paper, Fishing down marine food webs, in 1998.[7] For working to protect the environment, he earned a place in the "Scientific American 50" in 2003, the same year The New York Times labeled him an "iconoclast". Pauly won the International Cosmos Prize in 2005, the Volvo Environment Prize in 2006, the Excellence in Ecology Prize and Ted Danson Ocean Hero Award in 2007, the Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology and Environmental Sciences in 2008,[8] and the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2012. In 2015, Pauly received the Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in Science.[9] In 2016, he was honored in Paris with the Albert Ier Grand Medal in the Science category.[10] In 2017, he received, together with Dirk Zeller as part of the Sea Around Us leading team, the Ocean Award in the Science category.[11]

Also in 2017 and specifically on French National Day, he was named Chevalier de la Légion D’Honneur.[12]

Pauly has written several books, including Darwin's Fishes[13] (Cambridge University Press), Five Easy Pieces: How Fishing Impacts Marine Ecosystems (Island Press) and Gasping Fish and Panting Squids: Oxygen, Temperature and the Growth of Water-Breathing Animals.


To date, he frequently expresses opinions about public policy. Specifically, he argues that governments should abolish subsidies to fishing fleets[14] and establish marine reserves. He is a member of the Board of Oceana. In a 2009 article written for The New Republic, Pauly compares today's fisheries to a global Ponzi scheme.[15]


Select publications

  • Pauly D (2019) Vanishing Fish: Shifting baselines and the future of global fisheries Greystone Books ISBN 978-1-77164-398-6
  • Cheung W. and Pauly D (2017). Sound physiological knowledge and principles in modelling shrinking of fishes under climate change. Global Change Biology 24:e15–e26
  • Pauly D and Zeller D (2016) Catch reconstructions reveal that global marine fisheries catches are higher than reported and declining. Nature Communications, 1-9.
  • Pauly D (2010) 5 easy pieces: how fishing impacts marine ecosystems Island Press. ISBN 978-1-59726-719-9.
  • Pauly D (2009) "Aquacalypse Now" The New Republic, September 28.
  • Pauly D, Christensen V, Guénette S, Pitcher TJ, Sumaila UR, Walters CJ, Watson R, Zeller D (2002) "Towards sustainability in world fisheries" Nature, 418: 689-695.
  • Pauly D (1998) "Why squids, though not fish, may be better understood by pretending they are". In: Payne, A.I.L., Lipinkski, M.R., Clarke, M.R. and Roeleveld, M.A.C. (eds.). Cephalopod biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution. South African Journal of Marine Science, 20: 47-58.
  • Pauly D, Christensen V, Dalsgaard J, Froese R and Torres F (1998) "Fishing down marine food webs" Archived 2008-02-21 at Archive-It Science, 279: 860-863.
  • Pauly D (1998) "Beyond our original horizons: the tropicalization of Beverton and Holt". Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 8(3): 307-334.
  • Pauly D (1995) "Anecdotes and the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries". TREE 10(10): 430
  • Pauly D and Christensen V (1995) "Primary production required to sustain global fisheries" Nature, 374(6519): 255-257.
  • Pauly D (1981) "The relationships between gill surface area and growth performance in fish: a generalization of von Bertalanffy’s theory of growth". Berichte der Deutschen Wissenchaftlichen Kommission für Meeresforschung, 28(4): 251-282.
  • Pauly D (1981) "On the interrelationships between natural mortality, growth parameters and mean environmental temperature in 175 fish stocks". Journal du Conseil international pour l'Exploration de la Mert, 39(3): 175-192.
  • Pauly D and David N (1981) "ELEFAN I, a BASIC, program for the objective extraction of growth parameters from length-frequency data". Reports on Marine Research, pp. 205–211.


  1. ^ "Daniel Pauly takes the top spot as the most cited fisheries scientist in PLoS Biology study – Sea Around Us". 28 October 2020. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  2. ^ tylerprize. "Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement". Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  3. ^ "UBC's Daniel Pauly and Rashid Sumaila win Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement". EurekAlert!. Retrieved 2023-02-23.
  4. ^ Pauly, D. 1973. Investigation on the ecology and fishery of a small West African Lagoon. M.Sc. Thesis. In German with an English summary
  5. ^ Malakoff 2002
  6. ^ Pauly, D (1998) Why squids, though not fish, may be better understood by pretending they are[permanent dead link] In: Payne AIL, Lipinkski MR, Clarke MR and Roeleveld MAC (eds). Cephalopod biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution. South African Journal of marine Science 20: 47-58
  7. ^ Pauly D, V Christensen, J Dalsgaard, R Froese, and F Torres Jr. (1998) Fishing down marine food webs Archived 2008-02-21 at Archive-It Science 279: 860-863.
  8. ^ "2008. Daniel Pauly".
  9. ^ "Peter Benchley Ocean Award Recipients « Blue Frontier". 2015-08-17. Archived from the original on 17 August 2015. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  10. ^ "Daniel Pauly awarded the 2016 Albert Ier Grand Medal – Sea Around Us". 22 November 2016. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  11. ^ "Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller win Ocean Award – Sea Around Us". 11 January 2017. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  12. ^ "Daniel Pauly named Chevalier de la Légion D'Honneur – Sea Around Us". 14 July 2017. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  13. ^ "Darwin's Fishes". stdb.hnue.edu.vn. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  14. ^ AAAS (2007) The last wild hunt – Deep-sea fisheries scrape bottom of the sea
  15. ^ Aquacalypse Now, The New Republic, September 28, 2009


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